Live debt-free life! 

NO1

Here is a disclaimer! I am not an expert in the financial field, and I don’t have detailed knowledge of finances, especially the finance requirements of businesses. But then why am I writing this blog? There is another side of assets and liabilities in our life. You may be in business, serving somewhere or you are a student or a housewife. I am talking of time available to us. Every person has twenty-four hours available daily. I have heard some executives and young mothers say, “If I had forty-eight hours with me!” Every persons’ time balance increases by 24 hours at the stroke of midnight, not a second less not a second more. In the money world, when we start using credit cards indiscriminately or buy those yachts and buy chalets in St Moritz, your credit lines are going to be stretched. These then break at some time as it happened to a Mallya or a Neerav Modi.

Friends organise your time finances, or you may end bankrupt before you come to know. Every task on your to-do list, unread email, meeting request, project update, and goal requires time to complete. You wake up and realise before you think of this list, you know that you don’t have time to make this list! The actions and choices you make during the day have a compounding effect on your time. But you don’t have to go into “Time Debt”, you only need to tweak the way you do things, you plan your things. Even before you realise, you will have “Time Assets” with you.

If you are in “Time Debt”, you are not alone in this world. The whole world appears to be in this debt. There are reasons like wrong planning, procrastination, can’t say NO. We forget that you owe it to you and your family first. I am not saying that you come to the office late every day because you have home stuff to be completed. Plan and execute the home stuff the way you do things at the office. You are falling short of time at home because you take that extra half an hour wink, every day. You need to take that wink because you sleep late at night. You sleep late at night because you were making that presentation late in the night. You know what I mean. It is a vicious circle. Unless you plan these things both at home and work, you will never become debt-free.

A considerable number of people work late in the office or keep on working after coming home. Now I am sure you have understood what I mean. When you use a credit card, you are committing your future income to the credit card company. If you use the credit card as a convenience, then it is a different issue. If not, then you are in big trouble. You suddenly realise that after the credit card money is paid, you are not left with much cash and zero savings for the future.

How does time-debt start working in real life? You are working on a software project. Due to customer pressure or boss’s stares, you resolve the customer complaint, temporarily. By the time customer is back unhappily, you are handling another issue. So, you make another quick-fix patch. Within a short period, you know that you have supplied to the customer a quilt made up of different patches. What happens to your other projects? You have used your credit card here rather than using your debit card. Slowly you start realising that debt in any form is easy to take but hard to pay and you pay back much more. If the software company where you are working works this way, at some stage it will collapse.

The problems start when you don’t prioritise your work. Start saying No instead of Yes! You overcommit yourself and work longer hours to achieve it. We don’t realise the effects of time debt until it’s too late.

Time debt charges its interest, in the form of deficit in focus and attention. The more time you’ve loaned out to other tasks, the more those tasks weigh on your mind and steal your attention. For example, it’s much harder to focus on an upcoming deadline when you have tons of overdue tasks hanging over you.

Social media has become a significant reason for distraction. I am sure that during office hours, people must be getting distracted at least 50% of the times due to social media. The lack of focus is the debt, and with debt comes the interest payment. Delaying decisions is also a way of losing focus. Such delays by decision making people can cost monetarily as well as reputation-wise.

I will share a story which will show how delays can cost! A medium-sized vendor was supplying a component, an assembly, to a large vehicle manufacturer; the Vehicle Manufacturer (VM) owned the design for the component. There was a premature failure of the component in the field, in large numbers. The vendor did a lot of research and suggested some changes. For three years vendors suggestions were ignored. When the vendor took a stand, that he will stop production, everybody woke up. During these three years, the vendor and the vehicle manufacturer shared the warranty cost; but both lost their reputation in the field. The cost of loss of reputation could not be calculated. Add to this, various meetings, phone calls, travel in the market, which created stress between the two partners. The three-year delay caused and enormous hardships to all!

The classic case of debt taken without understanding the cost is seen in the example discussed above. I am sure the total cost to VM incurred due to the loss of goodwill must have been much more than the actual warranty costs.

In the same way, we should keep track of where we are “wasting” time daily. Wastage will include distraction, time lost for something unbudgeted because you could not say no! You have first rights on your time. So, when you need to withdraw additional time from your bank, do it for your work and not someone else’s job. Your “job” could include your rest too! Handle the item which leaks your energy, first. These are “must” items; so, unless these are completed, you don’t feel comfortable resting or even sleeping.

Importance of saying no is explained in the story I want to tell you. Years back, I used to go to the office on a bike. I would leave home, keeping sufficient time as a buffer for some unexpected problems. A friend used to go to his office in their office bus, but he would habitually miss the bus. Once he missed his bus and requested me for a lift. As we were about ten minutes from my office, he said, “Could you drop me to my office first?” His office was in another direction. I would have got late for my office. I told him, “Mate, I leave home at a particular time so that I can reach my office on time. Sorry!” I had learnt to say NO at a very early age! 🙂🙂

No2

Another View Point! The Native place!

This is a very emotional and controversial subject I have touched, and some of my friends may not agree with most of what I have written. But I have just tried to understand the conflict in the minds of the people, that are tough to handle.

Most of my life has been spent in the cities of Pune and Mumbai with small breaks in between when I was very young. So, I do not have the concept of “going to a native place or गांव  or  मुलुख!” These two places have been my gaon! Pune is the native place for me. I have many friends who have their native places, which are much smaller towns or maybe tiny villages. So, I do not have the experience of going to the native place, like these people have. I am sure it must be nostalgic, lovely feeling. I hear many stories of these places, in some cases 50 years old and in others 30 years old. I was trying to imagine how wonderful it must be to have such memories.

But the pragmatic guy in me poked me and said, “Hey, Pramod you also have a native place. But the only difference between those who “actually” have a native place to go and you, is that you have lived almost all your life in your native place! Probably this is the reason you do not become nostalgic when talking about your native place!” Remembering olden days, enjoying the memories of old times is the best thing that a human has, which nobody can take away, ever! It’s must be fun and emotional to go down the memory lane and enjoy oneself. I was talking to my friend Ram, who has his native place, a small town. He recently travelled to his native place. He shared with me the same thoughts as I visualised. He was nostalgic, he remembered many old things right from his grandfather’s time.

The difference in the “native place” of others and my native place is that many of my friends from olden times are still in my native place, in fact, some of them are still living in the same dwellings. I have seen my native place change in front of my eyes! Whereas in the “native places” that come up in discussion have changed from villages to much bigger villages or towns. Towns have become much bigger towns. When I think about this, I always felt how people feel when they go to native places that have lost many things to Time! How many of the old friends live there? If they have lived there all their lives, then have they changed with time? Do you have things common with them after 50 years? Are these things relevant today?

I came across a poem by Kedarnath Singh, a Gyanpeeth award winner. The Poem is “Gaon Ane Par”!  (“On arriving at my native place”) First few lines of the poem are

अब आ तो गया हूँ

पर क्या करुँ मैं?

एक बुढे पक्षी की तरह लौट-लौटकर

मैं क्यों यहां चला आता हूँ बार -बार?

Below lines are my humble attempt to translate in English, the crux of what Kedarnathji has said.

” I have come back to my native place
to do what?

I keep on traversing here like an old bird,

why do I keep coming here, again and again”?

He is confused, and it is obvious that he is not sure why he keeps on doing this. Are these the same people for whom I come here? He muses further. But when I see them, I need to go back to the old time-frame. These are the same people who are mine or are they mine? I don’t know where they live, but why am I insistent that this is my home?

The confusion in the poet’s mind is what happened in my mind too, about my friends who go to their “native place”. Their old homes where ever they lived, in most cases, do not exist. These have been replaced by new structures and maybe have new ownership. None of their close relatives live there. None of their old friends live there. Except for nature, the sea, the river, the hills everything else has changed. The people whom they see are unknown to them like what you have in big Metros, the anonymous. The school building has changed completely or, a business centre is built in its place. Landmarks of olden times have simply vanished. So, what do my friends go there for? For the name of that place? The place which has become foreign to what is in their minds!

I am sure that there will be some nostalgic memories of some particular things, which still exist. In my case, where I lived in my childhood in Mumbai, the same building still exists and is bit renovated. Families don’t live there anymore, and a charitable trust runs an institution in that building. This institution provides low-cost stay for people from outside Mumbai who are required to come and stay for medical treatment, a noble cause. But its presence kicks me in the butt and tells me how time has flown. There is zero chance that someone will even vaguely know me. Will I become nostalgic by just entering those rooms where I lived in my childhood? To me, nostalgia is something with a human touch. At least in my case, luckily, the building exists as it was in 1965!

The poet further meanders with lines, what should I do to make people in the native place feel that I am one of them? They are mine, or are they? For whom I am writing this poem, will they ever read my poem…. should I touch someone, can I hug someone? He has a small fear in his mind. He has become a Dilliwala, a person from Delhi! He is not sure if his “Delhi” version will come in the way of their hug! These and other lines of the poem have beautifully brought out the conflicting thoughts of this community of people going to their “native place”. Ram felt that a tiny percentage of people going back to native place feel really connected. Is it the pilgrimage taken out of some compulsion?

There is a new “going to native place” phenomena due to migration to different countries. These people and people receiving them in the country of birth, naturally have different viewpoints. But it is painful and slightly embarrassing to know what some people have said about their native place. The well-known actor Priyanka Chopda said the other day, ” What I miss about India, is that I cannot reach the film sets late for work in the USA”, where she works currently! A young 30 something CA, a finance professional in Sydney, Australia said when asked what he misses about his native country India? He said, ” Next week, I am going to Delhi for a holiday and break these damn traffic signals 30 to 40 times in first two days; I am fed up of straight-jacketed life in Sydney”. If these persons were saying these things jokingly, then they have a dark sense of humour!

I can understand nostalgia, old memories and lovely times spent in the native place. But I think one should be more pragmatic about basics. When a lot of time has passed, maybe humans tend to become too dogged in thinking that nothing has changed in the native place. When you were young, your family, your culture of that time (cultures do change with time), your friends of that time, also change from the way you remember them. It is your mother or aunt or elder sister who were giving you the love and the lovely food of those times! So maybe the “going to native place” is the journey like jumping from a plane, using parachute! The thud you hear when you reach the ground is what brings us back to reality!